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The "Mayweather Drug Testing" Program
By Gabriel Montoya
The sport of boxing has been undergoing a change in the way it looks at Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) use and PED testing. The wave began nearly three years ago during negotiations for a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, who demanded USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) oversee blood and urine testing. The fight crumbled under the stipulation but a new era was born. A fighter, the top selling pay-per-view draw in the world, no less, had taken control of his destiny and demanded that his opponent submit to stringent performance enhancing drug tests.
While Pacquiao passed on Mayweather’s special order USADA testing, Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz and now Miguel Cotto took up the offer in order to get a fight with Mayweather. Cotto is the latest fighter to undergo the testing in order to secure a lucrative PPV payday. He’ll be fighting Mayweather at the MGM Grand this Saturday live on HBO PPV.
On its face, “Mayweather Testing” is a shrunken version of USADA. Within a window of time that starts at the end of the initial press tour announcing a Mayweather fight up to two weeks after the event itself. Both fighters agree to have USADA collect and test blood and urine samples at random times throughout camp. Each man is obligated to inform USADA of their whereabouts 24 hours a day. What is not known is whether or not Mayweather or his opponents have submitted to year round testing which is the norm in USADA testing.
“Nevada commission is one of the best commissions in the world. My ultimate goal is not for USADA in the sport of boxing but USADA in sports period. Professional sports period because there is too much cheating going on in the sport,” Mayweather said to me and a group of reporters in L.A. to announce his fight with Victor Ortiz last year.
When asked if he had submitted to year round testing or his normal 12-14 week window he has used in all three of the Mayweather-tested fights, he responded “I am willing to be tested whenever. If USADA is here today they can test me now.”
This reporter pulled the question into focus, explaining that when it was first announced Mayweather and Mosley would be undergoing USADA testing for their May 1, 2010 fight, the testing had been referred to as the “Gold Standard of testing” as well as “Olympic-style” by Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaeffer. Had Mayweather signed up for the gold standard package of year round random unannounced testing both in and out of competition that Olympic athletes submit to?
“I don’t know what that it is,” said the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist. “If they got the platinum package give it to me. I am a clean athlete. They can come test me. I want to show the world that Floyd Mayweather is a clean athlete. I read some of your stories before, ‘Floyd is one of the best fighters.’ Now I’m making a stand. In this country, I said ‘You know what? I am going to show that our sport is a great sport.’ They say I am the face of boxing. I’m not ducking or dodging. It’s like . . . it’s . . . Pacquiao make a lot of mistakes. And one thing you have seen Floyd Mayweather is a fighter that can adjust to any style.”
What is also not known is a very important clause in the standard USADA contract. An athlete is allowed to miss two tests within an eighteen month window. The third miss will count as an automatic positive result and the athlete will receive a ban and/or sanctions. It is not known whether or not this rule applies in the smaller period of time Mayweather and his opponents are tested. In addition to the USADA tests, all of these fights will be under the testing auspices of Nevada, as well.
The cost for “Mayweather Testing” is between $90,000 and $100,000 per fight and includes both fighters.
USADA’s media relations manager Annie Skinner said of the alleged price tag, “The cost of a testing program varies depending on a variety of factors, but its cost pales in comparison to its value for clean athletes.”
And that is true. However, it is opined by some in the industry that testing eight to ten times per 14 week window is neither cost effective or a guarantee you will catch a drug cheat. In the world of anti-doping, particularly in boxing, it’s all about working smart and cost effective while expanding the out-of-competition testing window.
As science and combat sports progress, so have the cheaters’ methods. In this era of testosterone usage in combat sports, Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) testing, an effective method of discovering exogenous testosterone, (testosterone not made by your body but rather injected, ingested, or absorbed through dermal patches, among other methods) could possibly be the most effective tool in sports drug testing.
“Zero false positives to date, as far as I know,” claimed Conte when asked of the CIR’s efficacy. “They often call it the ‘Nail in the coffin test’ [for testosterone use].”
The average T/E ratio (Testosterone to Epitestesterone) for most humans is 1:1. Past age 28, T/E levels in males begin to drop 1% each year on average in the thirties and beyond. Yet we have athletes competing in all sports effectively into their late thirties-early forties.
In recent years, testosterone use has become a hot button issue in combat sports. California and Nevada, most notably, have implemented a system to handle athletes applying for therapeutic–use exemptions (TUE) due to low testosterone levels. Among those who have used this to compete are Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen of the UFC. Most recently, Alistair Overeem of the UFC was caught in a random drug screening with a ratio of 14:1. National League MVP Ryan Braun was also caught with reported T/E ratio of 20:1.
It’s not just boxing. Testosterone appears to be used in all sports.